RIDOT aims to clean out 25,000 storm drains

By: Rebecca Turco

Email: rturco@abc6.com

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island transportation officials are seeking infrastructure improvements to reduce flooding and protect the environment at the same time.

RIDOT officials are aiming to clean out years of debris from 25,000 stormwater drains, known as catch basins, on state roads. Cleaning the debris will allow the basins to collect more stormwater, and that stormwater in turn won’t have as much debris in it.

“The governor has given us the responsibility of not only improving the infrastructure, but also cleaning the part of the environment that DOT is responsible for,” explained RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr.

Stormwater carries oil and other pollutants from the pavement, to the catch basins, and eventually back into local bays and rivers. “Those pollutants can cause real significant water quality degradation of our local waters,” Wenley Ferguson, habitat restoration coordinator of Save the Bay, explained. She feels the focus on stormwater runoff is overdue.

Alviti said figuring out alternatives to help make stormwater runoff cleaner is part of the state’s 20-year project. But first, officials have to identify where the catch basins are located, before they can determine how to improve them. “We first have to know where everything is and then we’ll be able to identify what has to be done,” he explained.

This inventory of catch basins would bring Rhode Island up-to-speed with state and federal clean water mandates. “There’s no time like the present to begin to be a good steward of the environment,” Alviti said.

Ferguson offered some environmental alternatives for RIDOT to consider, like using plants and soil to filter the stormwater runoff depositing it back into the bay. Alivti said that could happen down the road.

Long-term funding for this overall project is part of the Rhode Works legislation that Governor Gina Raimondo proposed. RIDOT is seeking bidders to inspect the catch basins, and that study will be funded from existing RIDOT revenue.

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